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Our Orphan Girls In Aussie

by Jimmy Rhatigan

On January 27 at 11am, the team at MacDonagh Junction hosts the previously postponed Heritage Week talk.

Organisers are inviting people to join them online for a presentation from Sydney, Australia as they reconnect to the stories of our Orphan Girls.

Eighty-seven of the 4,114 young women who left Ireland between June 1848 and April 1850 during the Irish Famine were from one of the two Kilkenny workhouses: 28 from Callan and 59 from Kilkenny. 

Dr Perry McIntyre will join in from Sydney to give an outline of the background to what has come to be known as the Earl Grey scheme and focus on the lives of a few of the Kilkenny girls in Australia.

Perry has worked as an historian, archivist, and genealogist for over 40 years. 

She has been a councillor at the Society of Australian Genealogists, the History Council of NSW (President 2005-06), the Royal Australian Historical Society, Australian Catholic Historical Society, the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee – GIFCC (Chair 2012-15; 2018-20) and her local society, Mosman Historical Society. 

She has published and spoken widely on immigration. Her PhD on convict family reunion, published as Free Passage by Irish Academic Press in 2010 was republished by Anchor Books Australia in 2018. 

She is a director of Anchor Books Australia, formed to make good quality Australian history publically available.


In 2020 she resigned from the GIFCC to concentrate on researching the 4,114 women who emigrated from the workhouses in Ireland during the famine. 

She continues to update the summary life stories of these women on: https://irishfaminememorial.org/ searchable by name and/or county.

The Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee continues to hold an annual event onsite at the Irish Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on the last Sunday in October, the day the memorial was unveiled in 1999. 

Details on the above website as the day approaches.

Centre Manager Marion Acreman told Kilkenny Press: “This event gives us the opportunity to continue our heritage and genealogy outreach to the families of the descendants of the young girls forced to leave Kilkenny in search of a better life in Australia during the darkest period in our recent history. 

“Over the last 10 years we have made meaningful and lasting connections to the families of some of the 59 girls who spent time in this workhouse and we look forward to building more connections as a result of our ongoing work around the heritage of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse. 

“The Kilkenny Famine Experience, a free AV tour, available daily at MacDonagh Junction has had almost 8,000 visitors to date and has become a very meaningful part of the recorded famine history of the city.

To register for this free online event please email [email protected]

Note: Participants who registered for the original Heritage Week event need not reapply as they will be contacted separately with new event invitations.

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